I like to sit and sleep in weird positions making my limbs go numb and weak or even lead to painful sensations. When I sleep it’s mostly on my stomach with both hands underneath my full body’s weight because that’s when I feel safe. If I lay flat on my back my chest could get split opened in the middle and cold, stiff air would keep me awake forever.
I often clench my fists inside the pockets. It happens on tram stops when I’m on a ‘no smoking cigarettes for a few days’ break not knowing what to do with my hands.
Zoning out is a special talent that requires years of practice and comes in different forms. I pick at my skin, not in a self harm enjoying the pain way, but as a obsessive compulsive urge that is sometimes easier, sometimes harder, sometimes impossible to repress. During the summer me and my skin both go crazy, we don’t like the sun. But avoiding it completely is not a solution, even though a dermatologist once told me I may be allergic to sunlight. I don’t think that is the case, but it made me laugh because my brother often states that I’m actually a pretty well adjusted vampire.
I zone out for different reasons. Like when I used to stop in the middle of whatever I was doing to closely observe my thumb’s finger print lines with the help of my laptop’s lightning. The OCD part of the brain is upset with the uneven texture of the skin, wishing it was completely smooth, no dents. I had to google the word ‘dent’ after I wrote it down because it looked suspicious even though it sounded right in my mind. The aesthetic part is impressed with body’s appealing (im)perfections.
I don’t bite my nails because it damages the teeth but I don’t let them grow, either. When under bigger amounts of stress I grind my teeth while sleeping. It damages them, but it’s out of my control so I guess it’s alright. Waking up with the clenched jaw requires a special morning exercise routine. It happens every time when I dream of loosing all of my teeth in an accident or by a weird experiment, waking up scared, but relieved because getting a new set of teeth would be both psychological and financial drag. They say it’s one of the most common dreams, or nightmares if you like.
On one too many mornings I tend to convince myself coffee is a better choice than herbal tea and sometimes regret it later.
I can’t keep the same gum in my mouth for more than 30 minutes because it makes me nervous. A high school chemistry teacher told us gum chewing destroys the jaw. She always had a really bad breath.
I choose passive aggression over direct conflict and that is one of my greatest flaws. In attempt to change that, my goal is to start as many fights as I can.
I often express my affection with physical aggression which can cause misconception.On the other hand, I tend to express my politeness with gentle physical contact or affection which can also lead to wrong conclusions.
Imposter syndrome is a stubborn part time roommate turned full time friend.
Almost every paragraph and sentence starting with the word ‘I’ is a telltale sign. Occasional self obsession is necessary, but killing the ego is a long term goal. That is my manifesto.
After five highly productive decades of work David Lynch proved he is still at the top of his game when he returned to our screens with third season of Twin Peaks, a show that changed television history and gathered a cult fan following. Being one of the greatest American directors, Lynch will always be remembered as a leader of postmodern cinema, introducing us to surreal, intense plots in movies like The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive. The highlights of his impressive career are easy to find, but how did it all start? At what point did the boy from a typical small town family started to turn into atypical filmmaker we know today?
The answers can be found in a in a 2016 documentary film David Lynch: The Art Lifewhose director Jon Nguyen created it in a form of a one-way 90 minute interview, no one is around but Lynch with the exception of a couple of scenes where he is joined by his curious toddler daughter Lula.
The visual focus is on Lynch while he is painting or creating small sculptures or just sitting quietly while smoking in his cluttered Hollywood Hills studio – the place he feels most comfortable in. The footage of the creative process, getting his hands dirty, painting with fingers, sawing wood or cutting out pieces of it while he is narrating key events from his life. He talks about childhood, teen and later years, about ideas and why art and happiness go hand in hand. At the same time, there’s a lot of old video and photo material following his stories, but also examples of his dark and eerie paintings and illustrations. Some moments are quiet, we watch whatever he is working on and are left to think about it for ourselves, nothing is imposed.
Through the film we chronologically follow Lynch’s life from childhood and formative years to early adulthood. He is not an ordinary storyteller since the information he delivers doesn’t necessarily come in a logical way or have an expected pinnacle moment. Of course this is no surprise coming from the man who spent his filming career deconstructing the usual narrative structure and abandoning the mainstream rules.
The film starts with Lynch remembering happy childhood days, praising his loving parents and the sense of limitless freedom and support they provided for him and his siblings. The way he described a particular anecdote from that period about encountering a strange naked woman while playing outside especially stuck with me because it sounded like a twisted dream sequence or something I might have seen while watching Twin Peaks.
The director proceeds talking about the effect of his family moving to a different city. Those early teenage years are remembered as dark and unhappy because he developed some health problems, started to hang out with the bad kids, smoking and drinking, going out of control and disappointing his mom. But also at that time, while still being a stubborn, rebellious teenager Lynch started to develop a fascination with the world of dreams, that keeps inspiring him up to this day.
I never studied. I never did anything.I hated it so much. I hated it like… powerful hate. The only thing that was important was what happened outside of school and that had huge impact on me. People and relationships, slow dancing parties… Big, big love and dreams. Dark, fantastic dreams. Incredible time.
The Art Life
After learning one of his friends’ father was a painter, Lynch realized that being an artist can be a real profession, so that is when he firmly decided that painting is all he ever wanted to do in life. That painter was called Bushnell Keeler and he will play an important part in supporting Lynch in developing his career later in life. Visiting a painting studio for the first time Lynch described drawings, paintings and everything else in that place as ‘an art life going on right before your eyes.’ That is when the roots of obsession with art and the whole concept of ‘art life’ and happiness that comes along with it started to form.
I had this idea that you drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes and you paint. And that’s it.
The best part of this documentary for any aspiring artist is when Lynch talks about his beginnings as a painter when his work was really bad and he knew it, but it was a process he needed to grow through in order to find his own way of expression, so he just kept painting until that happened. The most important element in doing what you’re passionate about is dedication.
After graduation Lynch moved to Boston and went through a short experience of agoraphobia when he stayed in for two weeks and listened to the radio because he was physically and mentally unable to do anything else. He managed to get through that crisis, but says there’s always a certain level of nervousness when leaving home, even today he is the happiest when he doesn’t have to go out and stay in the world he created.
Moving to Philadelphia to pursue the art spirit and enrollment into Academy of Fine Arts were another important step for Lynch. While talking about living in a new, dark city that scared him, he describes weird and unpleasant encounters with neighbors, for example with a woman who would go around in her backyard squawking like a chicken. In moments like these, even though this is an intimate and honest portrayal, the viewer can never be sure if it really happened – Lynch lets us wonder about those events using his great capacity for telling surreal stories.
“Oh, a moving painting, but with sound”
The love of painting came first and remained his main occupation, until the day when Lynch, while observing the big painting he was working on at the time, started seeing movement and hearing the sound wind in the background. That’s when the passion for film making and storytelling started and led him forward in his career.
Homemade videos that show Lynch filming his first wife Peggy playing with his daughter show his personal side, but even then you can’t clearly separate the artistic and family man persona because he seems to think about art all the time.
The life changing moment in Lynch’s life was getting a grant from the American Film Institute at the time when he had to find a ‘normal’ job in order to provide for the family. He was unhappy and felt empty because there was no time left for painting and doing what he loved. The grant made it possible to continue his education in California and completely dedicate himself to visual art.
Lynch moved to Los Angeles to attend a training program in the Center for Advanced Film Studies describing the experience as unbelievable and inspiring. Creating new worlds and capturing them on film was now part of his daily routine.
The last couple of minutes are dedicated to the making of his first feature film – surrealist horror Eraserhead. His family thought he was losing time with it and should find a real job to earn money. He knew the time spent on filming it wasn’t lost and was determined to finish the movie while fully enjoying the process, describing everything about it as beautiful.
Eraserhead to me was one of my greatest, happiest experiences in cinema.
The impression after watching this unique documentary and getting to know David Lynch’s life and career on a personal level is very similar to being immersed into his work – you experience the fascination, thrill and mystery. Every person who is in a way involved into art making can learn a lot from this feature, there are two things I would like to point out – creating is important because it gives us a real sense of freedom and mistakes are necessary because they lead us towards what we’re trying to achieve.
He is letting the viewer in, but not inviting him to stay too long, only to have a long peak through the window, because at the end of the day – this is David Lynch, a talented, crazy imaginative artist that dares to visit places others have yet to discover and all that while we watch him sitting calmly, puffing away smoke and keeping his cool appearance.
Cannes Film Festival is about to begin, introducing the impressive selection of films competing in different categories with everyone’s attention especially directed towards the potential Palme d’Or and Grand Prix winners. What makes the 70th edition of the most acclaimed European film festival even more exciting is that Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodóvar has been named president of the jury, becoming the first Spaniard to be given that honor. The prolific director has had six of his films shown at Cannes throughout the last two decades, winning the best director prize for All About My Mother (1999) and best screenplay for Volver (2006).
Even though his films are exclusively in Spanish, that didn’t stop them from getting worldwide recognition from both critics and the audience. What is so appealing and unique about Almodóvar’s films that makes everyone who has seen at least one always come back for more? I’ll try to break down the director’s trademark characteristics in 5 key points.
Every genre is his genre
The problem is that I work in more than one genre. It’s impossible for me to aim for a single one because, for me, comedy is mixed with tragedy. That’s very Spanish, the way in which comedy and tragedy are inextricable from each other.
Transferring his eclectic taste into movies turned out to be a big creative success. There are no boundaries in Almodóvar’s stories, the viewer is often surprised by the way in which the story is developing. Also, his films are a great example of how the art of movie making is all about freedom of expression and having fun while creating the amusing plots and characters. This blend of genres is evident in every period of Almodóvar ‘s career- the early love stories mixed with provocative eroticism and political statements, to his newer films that contain mystery, thriller, black comedy and horror elements. No one incorporates romance and suspense as skillfully as Almodóvar resulting in emotional romantic thrillers like Broken Embraces or mystery melodrama Volver.
Memorable female characters
I feel that I can tell a richer and more entertaining story with women.
It’s not jut that he puts women in the spotlight as main protagonists, he makes them believable and goes well beneath the superficial explanations of what drives a character to act the way she does. Penélope Cruz, one of Almodóvar’s favorite actresses praised him as someone who perfectly understands the female universe and makes them feel protected so that is why she enjoys collaborating with him. The key of this capability stems from director’s childhood experiences, he explained many times that he grew up surrounded by powerful, strong women.
During the promotion of his latest feature Julieta, the Spanish filmmaker criticized Hollywood for sexism and not creating enough complex roles for women of all ages. On the other hand, some of his critics say he focuses on women too much, while his heterosexual male characters seem questionable and incomplete.
Almodóvar’s filmmaking style may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but no one can deny that he has an amazing sense for details and using colors as an important addition to storytelling. Quirky characters are not based solely on their dialogues and expression, the visual representation means a lot in how the viewers interpret their actions. The first example I think of is Lucia from black comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown whose mental instability was emphasized by over the top make up and costumes, turning her into hilarious, almost grotesque character.
Almodóvar has never been afraid of using ‘too much’ color, he openly flirts with elements of kitsch evoking traditional Spanish culture, but in a modern, progressive environment. Through years of making movies he learned how to control those exaggerated visuals in order to improve the film’s plot, but has continue to employ the bright colors, no matter if it’s the clothes, make up, lightning, a chair, a telephone, etc. The trademark of the majority of his work is the use of red which is directly connected to everything is so typically Spanish, but also draws attention to specific details, creating a tense atmosphere, and simply works out so well in front of the camera. One of Almodóvar’s most successful international features Everything about my Mother is the best illustration of the power of red. It represents strong, bold women and their life stories through dealing with broken relationships, love, motherhood, friendship, loss, etc.
Breaking the taboos
As much as he is not scared of colors, the Spanish filmmaker also doesn’t stray away from the unusual and hidden parts of human nature. A part from that, he creates space for characters who were in most cases pushed away from the mainstream – the homosexuals, transsexuals, transvestites. Ever since his debut 1980 film Pepi, Luci, and Bom Almodóvar has been promoting artistic, individual and sexual freedom, questioning the social conventions and tackling stereotypes. It is impossible to forget elements like Gael Garcia Bernal’s transgender character Zahara and dealing with sexual abuse in Bad Education, the deconstruction of identity in All about My Mother, challenging mother stereotypes in Volver, getting involved with the creepyness and obsessions in The Skin I live in, or experiencing painful feelings of guilt in Julieta.
Another important element is humor that is born out of unexpected, absurd, generally considered tragic situations showing the importance of context, for example the rape scene in Kika, or suicide attempt in High Heels. Despite of these chaotic events, the viewer continues to form emotional bonds and empathy towards the fabulously eccentric characters and that is what makes Almodóvar ‘s work authentic.
The choice of music
It’s no secret that films in general wouldn’t be nearly as exciting and touching if they weren’t accompanied by music, so it’s no surprise that Almodóvar doesn’t leave anything to chance in this department. He carefully chooses songs by his own preferences and is often led not by the artistic quality of music, but its references and emotional value. Original soundtracks for his movies have become hits of their own thanks to the collaboration with talented composer Alberto Iglesias.
Some of Almodóvar’s films are so strongly connected to their soundtrack that after watching them, we automatically connect actors and characters with a certain song proving music is inseparable from narration. When I think of the closing scenes of Talk to Her, I immediately hear the music, the dancing couples gliding through the stage appear afterwards. The most recognizable scenes have become so popular precisely for their musical intervals, like the incredible tunnel scene from All about My Mother which stays with you long after you’ve seen the film or Penélope Cruz owning that melancholic musical scene in Volver. For me, the most rememberable due to not only music, but costumes and incredible acting abilities is Gael Garcia Bernal’s performance of Quizas in Bad Education.
One day in the late 1940’s you find yourself wandering around Coyoacán, Mexico and stop by at La Casa Azul where the rebellious painter lived and ask her: Frida, my dear, what do you want to be remembered by after you are no longer living on Earth? What do you think the answer would be? I have a couple of versions on my mind, they are all connected with freedom and free love, determination, passion and obsession with life with all of its epic, exciting, moments, but also the inevitable downfalls, pain, sickness and sleepless nights.
I am happy that the legendary artist is getting more popular than ever, social media created an important passage for new generations towards her art, words and thoughts about honest love and intimate suffering. The aftermath is amazing, even though Frida passed away 63 years ago, her image and spirit are present while she’s considered as a role model and inspiration to girls and women (and some boys and men, because why not?) of all profiles, especially the underprivileged, misunderstood ones.
Commodification as a norm
Every medal comes with two sides, and the thing that is happening with Frida’s persona, just like with many other important figures who represent resistance to the system of exploitation, is that they are all being turned into something completely opposite, they’re becoming objects of advertising propaganda. Just think of the irony of Che Guevara, the best example of modern era’s distortion of values – his face selling T-shirts, travel agency deals, coffee mugs, key chains, door mats, towels… There’s even a ‘Che chic’ expression for a fashion inspired by the great revolutionary’s image! The real person and the idea behind is lost, irrelevant, to a great number of people his face is merely a caricature, a pop art commodity.
To answer the question from the beginning of the post, I’m positive that Frida Kahlo would never accept the role of a commercialized poster girl, a capitalist icon connected to various products in most ridiculous ways. The last example I saw today, the one that ‘triggered’ me to write this down was a billboard presenting a young model wearing Frida inspired traditional Tehuana like dress with a flower crown and a parrot sitting on her hand, all very rich, colourful, with a big white 10 % SALE banner screaming from the top right corner. Naturally, there is no manifest mention of Frida, but the resemblance is uncanny. Oh, and when I zoomed in towards the bottom right corner of the image, I could finally see it is a commercial for a newly opened furniture store. What is the connection? What do Frida’s face, style and that poor parrot have to do with the new sofa or a lamp they would like you to buy? I have no idea, I’m pretty sure that the ad creators are equally clueless. That’s the idea, to keep everything floating on the surface, as soon as you dig deeper, try to find any meaning, there’s a dead-end.
In Frida’s case the story is even more complicated because it all has a lot to do with commercialization of feminism and empower yourself ads. Empower yourself by buying our shoes, empower yourself by getting that perfume in a drugstore near you, empower yourself by choosing hair extensions from our salon, empower yourself… Ok, just stop for a second there and let me unnecessary analyse it. What does it mean exactly – if I buy a T-shirt from a brand that currently doesn’t have the ’empower’ or ’embrace your beauty’ campaign going on, am I degrading my self – worth? And what about next month, when the brand I bought the shirt from turns to a different, for example ‘YOLO!’ campaign style while the others begin to embrace the ‘love yourself, be unique, but look just like everyone else while wearing our clothes’ mantra? Damn, it’ s like you can never win and reach 100 % on the empoweredness scale. Should I worry about it, probably not, but I do sometimes. I feel like I have to. Would Frida care? I think not, she would just continue marching on using her talent as a weapon of mass destruction in fighting every stereotype there is on her way to immortality.
Wearing Frida or Che’s face on your shirt is not really a problem, the question is: Do you know who those people are, how they lived and what they stand for? Or are you just wearing it because you like the colors and it looks kind of cool and edgy while their polished images are somewhat familiar and also you saw someone wearing it on a Instagram photo just the other day? If the answer to the second question is yes, take the shirt off and do some research.
Now I need to chill, hand me that Pepsi, Kendall! Cheers!
Finding photos to accompany this post will be the easiest task in the world. The small piece of visual heaven is made with a perfect arrangement of a nice, round cup filled with hot, dark, bubbly beverage surrounded by ‘casually’ placed books, blank sheets of paper or recently turned on laptop waiting for you to start getting shit done. Even though I am aware those photos are staged (I mean, who reads 5 books at the same time and aligns their markers by the shade of their colour?), I love them and can’t stop looking at them because they make me feel at peace.
I sometimes imagine I am the one who just took that alluring photo, although my current surroundings are nowhere near that photogenic. I know that everything I plan on doing will have to wait just a few moments longer until I take at least a couple of sips of my morning/afternoon coffee. I take mine dark, unfiltered with a couple of drops of milk or cream, this is what I consider to be ‘a real cup of coffee’. Everything else that is prepared with too much milk and sugar is coffee for babies, tasty but doesn’t have the ability to get creative thoughts flowing or giving me a clear perspective and focus. If I’m alone, it is a ‘wake up’ peace and quiet morning coffee, while another cup much later in the day is closer to ‘work’ coffee most of the times, meaning I expect from myself to start or finish something I’ve been thinking about, it’s often something to write about or coming up with new ideas. Or at least try to, make notes and sketches, sometimes only starting something without finishing, but nevertheless, a necessary energy boost.
An ancient ritual vs. modern age
Wikipedia taught me that coffee first appeared and was prepared as a beverage we know today in 15th century Yemen and a century later started its journey towards Persia, Turkey and Africa. Europe didn’t stand a chance, people got hooked, everyone started to talk about this magic potion and the rest is history.
The preparing process is a ritual of its own, after brewing it, as we all know, coffee can be made in numerous ways according to individual taste and culture it derives from. It’s funny how a banal detail like a single cup of coffee can differ from country to country, for example I learned a long time ago that according to classic Italian recipe espresso needs to be served with a slice of lemon. I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t judge in advance, but if Italians say so, it should work, right? I found a short, informative article with some other specificities, for example, I am not so excited about the coffee + garlic combination, but this Moroccan ‘grinding a mixture of spices — including sesame seeds, black pepper and nutmeg — together with ordinary coffee beans produces an unusual, but a very strong drink’ is now on my ‘to try’ list!
This multicultural coffee spirit is something that should be protected from corporations like Starbucks who are limiting the creativity and imposing the same products on worldwide markets. Commercial success of well-known brand seems to create an approval among us, the customers, making us feel like buying an overpriced pumpkin white chocolate mocha latte is totally worth it. Some countries feel like their national identity and tradition are so strongly connected to coffee consuming culture they look at Starbucks and similar companies as a threat to their core values. Ok, we can all relax and agree that those companies are not really about the coffee, of course that is not a first place you will look for an espresso, but still it feels like a small earthquake that is about to leave its mark.
Coffee is not JUST a product. You can spend a looong time in company of a one cup or you can finish up your small espresso in two seconds, in both cases it is a ritual because it gives context and meaning to different social encounters.
Cigarettes and coffee, man. That’s a combination.
Jim Jarmusch won my heart once again with his 2003 classic starring legends like Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Bill Murray, Roberto Benigni. What he did was show the series of conversations around a table while drinking coffee. Couldn’t be simpler, but yet so complex because the range of topics is unlimited and unpredictable, just like in real life. The film embodies what I’m basically trying to say here, but in a much more coherent way.
In my country, when you want to invite someone to hang out and talk about serious stuff or just to relax, you say:
‘Let’s go and have some coffee!’
Notice the use of verb ‘have’ instead of ‘grab’ or ‘take’, it’s not about taking two coffees to go and chat while walking down a busy street like Seinfeld characters would do. No, sitting in a café bar having a cup of coffee can be a therapy session, a date, a trip through memory lane, political discussion, you name it… The point is, it can last for hours. Some say it is decadent and call it a deliberate waste of precious time due to laziness, but I call that a great time investment, a custom that needs to be preserved at all costs.
I slept over at a friend’s place and forgot to take my contact lenses off last night. And my mascara as well. A thousand dry, itchy blinks later, I’m home drinking lemon balm tea which is known for its calming effects. At the same time there’s another cup in front of me, I’m also having morning coffee leftovers. Last sip of tea, I’m still very thirsty and in desperate need for more tea or a tall glass of water, but no, my mind goes blank: Hey, have some salty pretzels! Naturally, these pretzels are making me (even more) thirsty. While devouring the last drops of coffee with a bitter taste in my mouth, I’m thinking how in three hours time I’ll be able to celebrate the impressive 24 hours of not washing my teeth. During that period, I drank tea, ate pizza and french fries, smoked a pack of Lucky Strikes, a couple of beers and two (I think) gin tonics. Usually, I’m really conscientious about personal hygiene and eat lots of vegetables so don’t judge.
Yesterday evening before going out I’ve seen Trainspotting, not the sequel but the 1996 original. I keep postponing the sequel watching due to a cool mix of nostalgia and unexplainable fear of the future. What does it have to do with a random movie sequel? I don’t really know, it’s just as close as I am able to describe how I feel. Location – my favourite old cinema in town which has been turning the best idea ever into reality with adding old(er) classics to their programme (I’ve already seen Taxi Driver and The Wizard of Oz).
So, back to Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy, Spud and Tommy, the characters we hate to love and love to hate. From the intro to the end, every scene, every conversation, every character’s quirk, vice and gruesome activity is epic. The ‘heroes of my youth’ grinning, swearing, shitting and injecting heroin on the big screen, all accompanied with hands down one the best movie soundtracks ever, music growling from the speakers in perfectly arranged intervals. No matter how many times I’ve already seen Trainspotting, it just doesn’t get any less exciting, touching or funny.
After leaving the cinema, I stood on the street among people for a bit, lit the cigarette and kept thinking about the holy trinity: David Bowie – Lou Reed – Iggy Pop, and how any movie containing their music couldn’t be bad even if it actually was.
During my rebellious, curious teenage years, I was prone to thinking of Trainspotting as a film that glorifies drug use and junkie lifestyle, it was a form of a forbidden fruit, cool in a weird way and that’s what I was drawn to. Now I’m experiencing things much differently, I laugh and cringe at particular scenes… It is a sad story at the times, tragic but hilarious, imbued with tons of cynicism. Also, this sounds like a definition of a black comedy, but that categorization doesn’t do the justice to this movie, not even close.
I was relieved to realize that this cult work was and will always remain important to me; even though we all change through the years and outgrow things every day, the core, the quality pieces we collect through our lives remain the same. The same as in we appreciate them equally, but from a very different angle. The variety of perspectives is why it’s fun to be an art loving human in the first place while listening to music, reading, watching movies, admiring paintings or sculptures… the content comes to us in different shapes and each mind reshapes the artist’s view in their own way.
Ok, I’m about to make a sugar-free lemonade, no more coffee today! This means I’m thinking of improving myself on so many levels right now. Today I’m going to eat fruit instead of junk food, brush my teeth a couple of times to compensate, wash out the smoke from my hair, sweat and beer from the clothes and nonsense from my mind.
Things and opinions can change, but my crush on Sick Boy is forever.
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
The poems, quotes, letters, photos of a beautiful blonde woman with a wide smile were all over my news feed yesterday. A mother, a wife, a talented poet – ‘she had it all’ as they like to say in the west, but somehow it wasn’t enough. And now on October, 27th we celebrate the unfortunately too short but important life of a woman who was equally impressive as an author and as an individual – Sylvia Plath.
Sylvia Plath on the beach, summer 1953 (photo from the Gordon Ames Lameyer Papers)
Ever since opening the Bell Jar for the first time, I remember how I couldn’t believe it’s real. I read it while staying at my grandma’s house during the endless, annoying summer 12 or 13 years ago. I didn’t know what to do with myself until I found some books randomly stacked up in the ugly living room cupboard. Some of them were cookbooks, foreign fairy tale editions, cheap crime novels, and two other books who, at the time sounded a bit familiar but I had no idea they will leave such an impression on me. Both controversial in their own way, one on the each end of a spectrum – Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.
Up to this day I have no idea who brought the particular book to that house and how it ended up in that cupboard. Back at home we always had big piles of books everywhere, I didn’t have to go to the library for a long time because we had all the important titles on our shelves. But The Bell Jar never belonged in that collection, it’s not well-known in my country, it’s not even mentioned in school literature classes. Today I am finally aware why that is the case and why her work was marginalized. The thing is, it took me a while to realize that women and men can’t suffer the same way when it comes to public perception of mental problems, or just problems in general. Men’s demons and self – destructive behaviour augment their artistic substance while women should suffer in silence and hide, or even worse, they are expected to at least pretend to be happy most of the time.
Unfortunately, the part that made Plath (in)famous was her depression and the way she ended her life a short while after her only novel was published. I’m ashamed to admit that was what made me like her even more after I learned those information from the author’s biography at the back of the book. That is, I suppose, a normal reaction for an overly sensitive teen who is looking for idols in all forms, contemplating life and, naturally, idealizing ‘tortured artist’ syndrome. On the surface it seemed like Sylvia fits right into that imaginary mold I’ve created. As soon as I started reading I could sometimes imagine myself in her shoes, I was still too young to understand the struggles around college life, almost being an adult, sexual relationships, finding a purpose, etc., but the general tone tinctured with insecurity felt surprisingly close. Many years later I still remember some of the lines from the novel and think how they seem relevant to me.
In her semi autobiographical novel, Plath speaks through the main character Esther Greenwood and refers to her time at college where she showed great talent and gained success. Just like in real life, after some disappointment, she started to have mental issues that grew bigger and made her feel like an outcast in comparison to people her age, although she tried to understand their interests, goals and behavior. Nothing is left for her but frustration and confusion. As a reader I felt the most frustrated at the parts when Esther is given shock treatments to help her deal with depression and insomnia.
The novel also deals with a topic that is, although common, pretty much under the radar – a typical problem for exceptionally good students is the question about the future. Of course, everyone has anxieties about what happens next, but what are those students supposed to do after they leave school? Leaving an environment where they were considered smart and capable to start from the beginning where they are considered to be nobodies. They may continue to educate themselves in some form or another, but are expected to get a job, start a family, long story short – they get thrown into the adult world and simply have to fulfill their role in society. There’s no time for complaining. Esther can’t imagine herself enjoying the, at the time, typical female role of a wife and a mother who doesn’t pursue a career, and that is making her feel lost and trapped.
Sylvia Plath tried to commit suicide many times, the first time it was documented in 1953 after taking sleeping pills but was found alive in her mother’s cellar after three days. The final attempt which turned out tu be successful happened after a depressive episode in 1963 when she was found with her head in the oven with the gas turned on. She was only 30 years old.
Who knows what she could’ve wrote next? Not long before her death she had just finished The Bell Jar and had a creative period that left us with numerous poems and short stories who represent a testament to her genius, tumultuous mind. Breaking the taboos, being candid about personal struggles and the recognition of female rights are finally getting the necessary attention which is making Plath’s work contemporary and more and more important and influential. Little girls wanting to be poets or writers have someone to look up to. Thank you for being an inspiration to us while we’re getting involved with art or going through our personal struggles.
There are movies you can watch with one eye closed, while texting your crush or thinking about your grocery list. There are movies you can watch with a bunch of friends and comment, laugh, talk about something else for a while, get up to get some more popcorn. There are movies who don’t demand your full attention, they are here to present a certain plot and try to entertain you while on the greater scale their sole purpose is to earn as much money as possible and then fall into the oblivion. Everyone who had at least a brief encounter with Jean-Luc Godard‘s movies is aware, of course, that this is not the case.
The average mind raised on the typical American style cinematography will get confused after five minutes, get bored after twenty and is most likely to give up from watching the movie after 45 minutes. But that’s no surprise and doesn’t mean that the average mind is stupid or uneducated. Godard’s work is an acquired taste, the one that when/if the viewer accepts it and gets to know it, falls in love more and more until you start looking at the everyday life scenes through Jean-Luc’s glasses.
That started happening to me after I watched Une femme est Une Femme (A woman is a Woman, 1961), my first Godard experience. I was a bit puzzled at first but it was love at first sight – the story, Anna Karina, Belmondo, the clothes, dialogue, colors, language… Freedom! Freedom is the key, freedom from the overpayed, overplayed, predictable script, nonchalant deconstruction of what is considered ‘normal’ or ‘succesful’. Godard himself says it all in one simple sentence:
“Improvising on the set is different from faithfully following the script.”
The last one I’ve (re) watched is also one of the most important French new wave titles – Pierrot le Fou (Pierrot Goes Wild, 1965). It’s one of those movies that stuck with me and will always be important, also this time I had a chance to watch it in the cinema, on the big screen. What an experience, not even drunk people talking pretty loudly or leaving in the middle of the film couldn’t spoil the good feels and my overall excitement. If an extraterrestrial finally visits our beautiful planet one day, I suggest playing Pierrot for him/her/? to explain what ART means. You can’t define it in one word, it can be completely subjective, but once you come across it, you know it’s here.
What I like the most about this film is the criticism towards Americanization, war and consumerism. We are so obsessed with things and accumulating stuff we don’t really need. We all know that, we’ve seen Fight Club for god’s sake, but still we remain clueless. I’m looking for winter coats online as we speak and I get that adrenaline rush because I’m in a hurry to pick the PERFECT one, the one that DEFINES me and at the same time I hate myself for it, but also can’t help it. Ridiculous, it’s like being stuck in between two worlds. That’s why artist that present sober critics to their public need to be even more appreciated. They are not just artists who create something for themselves and a small circle of people, they represent the state of society in general. Through the words, music, images and beautiful or funny scenes they can comfort us, but also implement a warning sign in our mind that something needs to be changed.
Like all great works of art, Pierrot le Fou is still very much relevant, I always laugh at the statement:
“Now we are entering the age of the ass.”
We are very much in that age and it seems like we will be in it for a while longer, don’t we? It’s hard to come out and look up, I guess.
To conclude, i really think everyone should find some free time and dedicate it to watching good, classic movies, and not just so they can boast about it and act all ‘intellectual’ in front of others, it should be completely opposite, actually. Watching Godard helps me create my own little world, draw inspiration from it and learn. Finding out that improvisation can coexist with author’s control over his work and what he’s trying to achieve is something I didn’t know before Godard, and now I very much appreciate. It is the unique pleasure of letting the viewer feel whatever he wants to, find his own way through the two hour movie watching experience without pulling his hand like he’s a kid about to get lost in the shopping mall. Let him get lost on purpose to find something new and exciting, that is the goal.
There are many little joys we all need to give our life true meaning, the memory of coming out of the cinema, snapping my fingers while singing quietly Ma ligne de chanceis and always will be among my favourite instant mood boosters. And the best part is, I have yet to discover the rest of the ‘nouvelle vague’ familly – Truffaut, Chabroul, Rivette….
Ever since I started a project of my own I am aware that I overuse the word CREATIVITY and add ‘she/he is such a creative person’ to describe the people I’m collaborating with. Why do I do that even though I often feel a hint of disgust even after first three-letter C… R… E… ughhh, no I can’t do that, think of something else for god’s sake!
Don’t get me wrong, I love creative people, I love being around them, learning from them, even copying them but not in an illegal douchebaggy way, or at least I hope. The problem with my generation is that we have a lot of time on our hands. When I say ‘we’, I’m talking about European or Northern American privileged young adults who are pretty much broke, but we still live pretty comfortable lives when compared to… you know, the rest of the world. Like I said, a lot of time combined with access to cultural, artistic, cinematic, etc. experiences from all over the world results in a bunch of individuals who see themselves as modern artsy gods, creative geniuses who’s talent, although not yet discovered should be rewarded by the cruel society. Pretty much thousands of Van Goghs wandering around on Instagram, collecting followers who worship their perfectly aligned photos of morning coffee and bagel next to an overly expensive Mac laptop, or ‘innovative’ fashion escapades inspired by the Kardashian clan, or on the opposite side of the internet sphere – tiny Lolita’s with their petite features giving advice on vegan diet and yoga practises… I could go on forever, if you ever used Instagram, you know what I’m talking about, the stereotypes that we are all becoming a part of. It’s an inflation of people who want to be special, recognized and in the end, famous. The lifestyle, maaan, it’s all about the lifestyle. Of course I get jealous sometimes, but the more perfect the photos, the more suspicious I get when I think about it. And when I don’t think about it, I just scroll through it and forget about most of the stuff I’ve seen, there’s just too much information, your brain can’t process all the visual stimulation it receives during the day.
I think of myself as a creative person, but maybe not in a conventional way. That doesn’t mean I’m special, au contraire, I am a part of the group with the most members: people who enjoy, appreciate and consume art without having a real talent. I draw stuff, write poems, take photos (who doesn’t these days) but there’s nothing special about it, and even more importantly, I don’t feel the need to share it with a great number of people. Regardless, art is and always will be a great part of my life.
In Woody Allen’s Vicky, Christina, Barcelona Scarlett Johansson plays Christina, a reckless young girl who is not sure about what she wants from life, the only thing she knows is what she doesn’t want. I very much sympathise with that. She also says at one point that she needs to accept the fact that she is not gifted, although she can appreciate art and feels she has a lot to express. She turned out to be a talented photographer, but she had a good mentor, a true artist kind of type. Maybe that’s what we all need, a push, someone who will build our confidence and make us feel relaxed and good about ourselves and what we want to express. In case we want to persue our passion in a professional way, that someone should also be direct and honest about the work we created.
It’s funny because we live in a place and time where creativity is an absolute must have in probably every type of profession, job interviews rarely go by without the ‘show us your creativity assignment’, creativity is no longer something reserved only for kids or quirky adults, it is an expected part of our personality. At the same time, being childlike or playful is frowned upon. I guess we need to learn how to find a balance between the two. Oh no, now I’m starting to feel sick, like trying to wiggle my way out of a boring school essay and that is not a good thing so I will stop writing immediately.